When Claire was born I had prepared for the event by purchasing four pink blankets. They were all cotton and they were soft and cuddly and I was sure they would be the perfect blanket for her when she needed something to comfort here. I had this vision of the blanket getting messy when she was sick and wearing out as we washed it every day. I imagined it getting dragged outside and covered in mud and grass stains. I saw it with many holes and multiple repairs. To take care of this problem I had backups.
When I was a kid I had a blanky. I remember my grandmother repairing several holes in it. I remember sitting in bed and going over the repairs trying to decide if these scares were enhancements or if I was better off with the gaping holes. Holes, of course, are prone to become bigger holes. That being the case I was pretty sure the visible scars were a better trade.
My daughter would be spared this because I had backups. As her blankets wore out and developed un-repairable gaping holes, I would just substitute a backup. My daughter, awed by my infinite powers of repair, would never notice the change and be happy I was able to mystically restore her treasured blanket.
It did not work out as I had planned. She could care less about the pink blanket. In fact she could care less about any blanket. Although she may have a favorite to curl up in when she was on the couch, there was not necessarily a visceral attachment to it. She was almost as likely to drag a different blanket to the couch and curl up with it instead. At night, she did not demand a particular blanket to sleep with. Even though I vainly attempted to stick her pink blanket with her every night it usually got wrapped around a teddy bear or a group of teddy bears.
And what about teddy bears? Every time I went out of town I would pick up a new stuffed animal for her. As time went on I noticed something. Whatever animal I brought home became her favorite for a while. Before she was 4 there was never really a favorite. That is there was never a favorite that stuck. She would make demands for a particular animal but I knew it would not last long.
This troubled me a bit. Shouldn’t she be attached to something? Shouldn’t she be focusing her anxiety and fear into something to comfort her when it was dark and to get her through thunderstorms?
As I lay there in bed one night and heard the thunder roll in I could hear the pitter patter of little feet entering my room. I could hear the rustle of the bedspread as she climbed into bed. Tossing aside two friends that had accompanied her, whoever the friends de jour were, she curled up beside me and said, “The storm woke me up Daddy.”
It occurred to me at that moment, my daughter did not develop an attachment to any blanket or teddy bear I gave her because she already had an attachment, Me. I was her Teddy Bear.
This brought on an entirely new set of worries. Will she ever learn to do things on her own? Is this attachment healthy?
I never really worked all that out, but trusted that if I was her teddy bear, then, she was mine. It would work itself out.
Before Claire turned five she received Alice the Camel. Other than me Alice was probably the closest she ever came to having a real favorite. Alice had a good run, over a year. Alice, caused her to completely skip over a few friends. Allison the Unicorn, George the Chimpanzee, Long Necked Goose, they never got a real turn at the top. Last night as I put Claire to bed, Alice the camel was wrapped tightly in a pink blanket in the corner of her bed. Around Alice were a few other friends, all tucked with care into a complex sleeping arrangement involving multiple blankets and pillows. But as I kissed her goodnight she was tightly holding Godiva the bear. A recent acquisition from only a month ago.
Before I went to bed that night I walked into her room and Godiva the bear was still wrapped in her arm, though a little less tightly now that she was fast asleep. I bent over and whispered, “I love you,” as I do every night before I turn in and I kissed her on the forehead. In the dim light I could see Alice the Camel and Marvin the Shark standing guard over our little girl in the corner of the bed. They did not appear jealous of Godiva the bear, though how could they not be just a little envious?
I went to bed and fell asleep. Sometime later I was awoke by the sound of little feet. I heard them come into the room, I could hear the bedspread rustle as she climbed into bed. With my eyes barely open I could see her dragging Godiva the Bear and Alice the Camel. I could not help but smile just a bit at the thought of Alice saying, “Wait, take me!” just as she was getting out of bed.
She did not curl up with her two friends, instead she placed them under my arm. Very gently, very quietly she leaned over my head and whispered, “I love you Daddy.” And kissed me on the forehead. Then she curled up next to me and put her little arm around me.
There was no thunder, there was no dog barking. I have no idea what woke her up. She seemed to fall back to sleep quickly and I lay motionless, unwilling to disturb such a perfect moment. It did not take long for me to fall asleep too.